How can I help my child to not fall victim to a bully?
Totally bully proofing, like totally drown proofing, is unfortunately not possible. There are however, a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood and instances of bullying. These things will also improve the outcome if you child does fall victim to that schoolyard bully.
Right from the start, raise a confidant child. “Right,” you say. “How are we going to do that?”
Let me tell you. From his youngest years let your child feel that he could handle what ever arrives at his doorstep. Reduce the number of barriers in his way, let him know there is a correct way to handle what ever (s)he encounters and than let him or her learn that correct way with your wise guiding hand.
Other parents will be putting barriers on the stairs to their homes, they will be forbidding the child any access to the staircase on his or her own two feet. With attentive hands-on supervision, you can teach your child to climb down those treacherous stairs backwards, feet first on his hands and knees. That way he at least has a chance to survive if he encounters perilous stairs un-gated. Of course you will continue to use the gate to prevent unsupervised mishaps, but now he will have an “I can do that.” attitude should he wind up confronted by the situation. It is more the removal of the fear of the stairs than allowing him to climb up or down alone before the child is ready. He will become less fearful of the other side of the gate should the gate become dislodged or broken away. Should he encounter stairs in another home, un-gated, he will not run away in fear.
You can also teach your child to use a knife with great care, again under your watchful supervision, show him the sharp edge, he will understand if you call it the “Ouch,” edge. Teach him that the sharp edge will do the cutting. He can learn to put his little four year old fingers on the back of the blade and press down while pushing down on the handle with the other hand to cut. You will still need to be there when the knives are with in his reach, but he will have the confidence that, locking the “adult tools” away and forbidding them, takes away.
Instead of picking the child up and putting him on that playground ride, help him to climb onto it safely. He will feel more confident and capable for his attempt even if the mount is assisted by you.
He should wear a lot of red, red is a color of affirmation and confidence.It affords the quality of confidence to the wearer (think; the red corporate power tie). His favorite color will be red for quite while until the child learns that “blue is for boys,” or “pink is for girls.” Even then the power that the color has imparted will stay with him.
Second, well before the child enters school, try to get your child to know a few of the other children who will be in his/her grade at school. Arrange for them to spend time playing together. This will give him or her a nucleus upon which to build a strong support system. It will help him to build a strong, confidant self image. He will know who his friends are and they will be there to support him if he needs it, or he will be there to support his friends if they are distressed by bullies. Supporting and standing up for one another is an important life skill. The sooner it is learned the better off he or she will be.
Every problem that presents itself should become a teaching experience for you and a learning opportunity for the child. The word “No,” should not be part of a parents vocabulary unless it is absolutely necessary. You want the child to see possibilities not barriers in his world. You wanted him to be able to solve and circumvent any obstacles and problems he meets in life. This is a pattern that, once set in place, will repeat itself as life goes on. These techniques will not completely “bully proof” your child. Sadly nothing can really do that, but they will afford him the confidence that for the most part makes him a less likely target. Also they will help him or her to deflect or cope with that child who insists on acting the bully if the need arises.
Once your child is in middle school, be available. Notice differences in friends and behaviors. Make casual comments, ask what, “Billy,” (his old friend), or ,”Jasmine,” (her old pal) is up to at school. Find out what drew your child to the Chess club or the Cheerleaders Squad. Wonder out loud why they choose to stop attending any given activity. Unless their time is full, try to steer them into another activity to fill the void when something falls aside.
In Highschool there is little that you besides remaining available for your child. If there is a topic that you feel warrents discussion, the car makes a perfect captive container for your discussion. Try to remain non-judgmental, just listen. Do not jump in with an automatic intervention if something is wrong. Offer gently to help and if your offer is refused, respect the refusal but leave the door open for reconsideration of your offer. Let your teen know that they can come to you with problems and that you will not force your solutions on them. Remember, if you have a confident child he or she will be fine.
Remember to lead by example, project confidence. As confident parent, you will be a good role model for your confident child.
Trust your child, listen to your child and respect his or her autonomy regarding their problems.